The Path to Choice: Abortion in France

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wadedecision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

The right to choose and perform abortion in France dates from 1975, thanks to the Veil Act (named for the Minister of Health Simone Veil, who proposed and defended the law). Before that, the 1920 Act forbade any incitement to contraceptive and abortion, which was considered a crime. Under the Vichy regime during the World War II, abortion was a crime against state security and punishable by the death penalty—in 1943, for example, Madame Marie-Louise Giraud, who practiced abortions to provide for her family during German occupation, was guillotined. During the early 1970s, the country saw an increase in activism in favor of the right to choose abortion; the 1972 Bobigny Case, in which a teen rape victim risked her life to obtain an illegal abortion, caused a groundswell of opinion that led to the Veil Act.

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The 2012 French Presidential Election: Independence and Women’s Rights Threatened by Marine Le Pen

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

2012 is a crucial year for the future of the United States, but also for France. And France has its share of obscurantists, too. The country’s presidential elections are conducted differently from the U.S.: candidates are elected by members of their parties, and then multiple rounds of public voting determine the winner. The first round of voting will be held on April 22, 2012, and among the candidates is Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the now-retired politician who founded the far-right “Front National” (National Front) party.

“Women have to be generous”

France is among countries that offer financial assistance to encourage pro-natalist policy; as of 201o, it had the second-highest fertility rate of all European Union countries.

In her interview, Le Pen spoke about many issues relevant to women’s lives. About abortion, she said that “if the financial situation requires it [...] it will be considered to not refund abortion, except in cases of rape [...] women have to be generous by thinking about all the elderly and precarious who today, in France, refuse to be treated by lack of means.” By “not refund,” Le Pen is referring to changing the current system, by which individuals are allowed to receive a refund for health fees. This system is based upon solidarity, with individuals contributing to healthcare costs through payroll taxes. Thus, abortion detractors argue that abortion is not a medical issue, just a consequence of a choice and that the rest of the population shouldn’t have to pay for that.

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